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Overall cocaine use in the United States has decreased during the past 20 years, but new research shows that the decrease occurred among those who are highly educated, while use of the addictive drug among non-high school graduates did not decline. Researchers believe the difference is due to a lack of access to health warnings and resources.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conclude that the difference in cocaine use between the groups show a need for interventions that target those who have less education.

"Much like smoking, people with a better understanding of the impact cocaine has on health are more likely to modify their behavior," said Valerie S. Harder, MHS, lead author of the study, in a news release. "Better educated individuals also may have more resources and access to health care services, such as drug treatment programs."

First-Time Use Decreased

Using data from the 1979-2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the researchers found that in the 1980s the number of persistent users of cocaine among high school and college graduates dropped dramatically and fell below the cocaine use of non-high school graduates for the first time.

They also found that during the same time period, the number of first-time users of cocaine steadily decreased over the years regardless of their level of education.

"It isn't enough to simply try to stop individuals from using cocaine the first time," said Harder. "More drug intervention programs that target non-high school graduates are necessary to reduce persistent cocaine use in that population."

Source: Harder, Valerie S., et al. "Cocaine Use and Educational Achievement: Understanding a Changing Association Over the Past Two Decades" American Journal of Public Health. October 2007.

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